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I have windows 7 with 4GB of RAM. When the system starts from a fresh boot I start with about 33% usage. However, if I walk away with my PC idle for a few hours, or over night, my PC typically climbs to the high 80s or even over 90% usage (once, it got as high as 98%!).

The biggest commit is usually SVCHost.exe at around 500MB. My sidebar.exe process also tends to climb to about the same number.

This is a new development since upgrading to Win7 SP1, and I'm not finding much info about it on the internet. Has anyone else encountered this problem?

Edit It is causing severe performance issues when I come back to the PC. I have to reboot to get the memory back.

Edit 2: Tagged as "service-pack". This issue did not occur until SP1 was installed, so I'm wondering if that may be the root cause.

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How are you measuring memory usage? Task manager saying 512 MB free of 6GB is fine if most of it is in cache as that will be immediately freed if needed... –  Mokubai Apr 2 '11 at 21:44
    
You didn't describe the problem. Why do you need the memory back? What happens if you don't reboot? All the behavior you described is completely normal. Free memory is wasted memory -- it's not like if you only use 2GB today, you can use 6GB tomorrow. –  David Schwartz Aug 29 '11 at 0:05

5 Answers 5

It's only a problem if that memory is unavailable for other tasks when called on. Just because it's used now doesn't mean can't be released quickly when needed, and in fact leaving the memory unused would be the real waste.

As a side note, this is another difference in the way that Windows and Linux use memory. On a linux system, this would be a little more worrying because swap is just used as a last resort. Nothing is swapped unless absolutely necessary, and so Linux would have to first take the time to write used RAM to the swap partition before it could be reclaimed for other programs. Windows, on the other hand, likes to keep all RAM paged all the time. This way, if it needs to use RAM to use for another process it is already paged to disk, and so it can be reclaimed much more quickly. It's a tradeoff - Linux is faster in this respect for RAM that will never be paged/swapped, and Windows is faster in this respect for those times when you need to swap quickly.

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Disable the sidebar process. It's known to leak a lot of memory (although it's more likely the add-ons that it hosts that are probably causing the resource leaks).

Suggestion: Upgrading to 8 GBs of RAM is better if your motherboard can support this since Windows Vista and Windows 7 both do consume a lot of memory, and the newer applications also seem to be using more RAM these days as well.

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I do not really consider "disable the sidebar" to be a viable option. My gadgets have been there since I got the system and this problem is only recent (since SP1). –  Chris Sobolewski Apr 2 '11 at 21:07
    
@Chris Sobolewski: That's certainly your choice. Of course, if you do disable it for a while, you will have the advantage of ruling it out as the culprit (or determining that it is the cause of your resource leaks). Also, don't discount the possibility that the SP1 update might have updated some of those gadgets as well as the sidebar code itself -- just because it's an update to fix things doesn't mean it didn't break something else. –  Randolf Richardson Apr 4 '11 at 18:22

Are you saying biggest memory usage is 5MB ? For me svhost.exe takes 180mb of memory and firefox with running few tabs takes around 500mb. Can you check what's really the usage of memory and let us know ? Does it have SQL Server installed? SQL is known to eat everything alive depending on what type of databases you may have them for development.

Anyways get Process Explorer, sort your processes by Private Bytes and see what's taking all the memory app.. or maybe you have lots of processes that together make it eat all memory available. You need to check that.

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That is correct. When I start, the host process takes up 180 or so MB, just like yours, but when I come back from an extended time of not using it, it tends to be around 500mb. You may be on to something with SQL, I am running an instance of mySQL, however I it is only for testing purposes and the DB should not be doing anything if I am not using the PC. I will try that, but wonder how this connects as I have been using the PC for a while and this is a new phenomenon. –  Chris Sobolewski Apr 2 '11 at 21:09
    
U can use process explorer and right click on svchost.exe on offending process and then go to services tab and find out what services it's running. My svhost.exe with large amount of memory hosts 2 services BFE and MpsSvc. See what other processes you've got there. Also there seems to be a lot of possible options about svhost leaking memory -> social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/w7itproperf/thread/… Try to google some. It can be anything from service leaking to video drivers being a problem. Can you try to update your drivers to newest versions? –  MadBoy Apr 3 '11 at 8:11

With Process Explorer, you can hover the scvhost.exe process to see what services it hosts.

If you need to troubleshoot this in detail, Microsoft Sysinternals VMMap can help you do this.
It allows you to inspect what memory is mapped and could allow you to identify the specific service...

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This looks like it should be helpful. Does it have a logging option so I can leave it up and walk away, then see what happened while I was gone? –  Chris Sobolewski Apr 3 '11 at 1:41
    
@ChrisSobolewski: I don't think so apart from the timeline or leaving Process Explorer run in the background... –  Tom Wijsman Apr 3 '11 at 11:06

I have the same problem - apparently, it's a memory leak in sidebar caused by IE9. Here's more info.

There are two fixes I'm aware at this moment: there is a hack which restarts sidebar from time to time, and a more permanent solution is to uninstall IE9.

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